Prof, E Sha ma Binu Si Wa By Pius Adesanmi

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[Analyses]–And so the countdown to our big conference begins! Tomorrow is the day! Months of grueling preparation will finally come together tomorrow. Because we are the only independent, stand-alone Institute of African Studies in any Canadian University and we are based in the capital, we get to do big things about the continent.

One such big thing is our annual Africa conference – jointly owned by the Institute and the Group of African Ambassadors and High Commissioners in Ottawa. Tomorrow is the third edition of the conference – the second on my watch as Director of the Institute.

In the three years since we started this partnership with the African missions, the conference has grown to become one of the most significant Africa conferences in Ottawa. It parades the cream of African diplomats, top scholars, directors and heads of federal agencies and departments dealing with Africa, multilateral organizations, NGOs.

This is an event where the African Ambassadors and High Commissioners try to position and showcase their countries as drivers of thought and reflection on the continent. Beyond their solidarity as a group at the conference, there is always a lot of subterranean moves to position your country as the thinking powerhouse of the continent.

Last week, I met an official of the Nigerian High Commission. I have taken to pitying them. No substantive High Commissioner in nearly two years so, basically, there is nobody for Canada to engage here. You have a Nigerian as Director of the only Institute of African Studies in Canada but he has nobody to engage.

The Nigerian official I met last week was lamenting, apologizing, etc. Prof, you know that without a substantive Head of Mission, we cannot engage on the same playing field as other missions because everything we do is tentative and subject to reversal. I joined him in lamenting. He said that the most painful part for them is that other Missions are exercising bragging rights over this conference. One Ambassador even asked them: do you know Prof Adesanmi? I can introduce you to him.

Almost a full year after his ambassadorial nominees were screened and confirmed by NASS, Baba still hasn’t sent them out. They are all still languishing in Abuja. So, you have our Missions being run tentatively by staff who can’t really do anything in terms of serious engagements with their host governments. For nearly a year, all the High Commission in Ottawa has been doing is appealing for my understanding.

“Prof, e sha ma binu si wa. We know that your tenure as Director should really be our thing. We should own it and maximize opportunities but, Prof, shebi you understand the situation.”

Anyway sha, I will have full home support tomorrow. A brotherly support all the way from Lagos via Montreal. At least he will see what his brother is doing here with his korokoro eyes. And he will join me in the gnashing of teeth ritual over the diminished role of Nigeria.




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